Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) reintroduced the Expanding Care for Veterans Act, which would expand complementary and alternative medicine and mental health care options for our nation’s veterans.

“We must continue to explore innovative and effective ways to provide our veterans with the mental and physical health care they need. There are many organizations, including in Ventura County, that are achieving very positive results using complementary and alternative medicine to treat mental and physical health issues,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “New therapies have helped many veterans manage post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms associated with Traumatic Brain Injury, reduce dependence on medication for chronic pain, and improve their quality of life. We need to evaluate what works, and ensure that those treatments are available for all veterans who are in need.”

“VA’s willingness to assess and accept alternative treatments is what’s called for to help meet the need for care,” said Mike McManus, USAF (ret), Veteran Service Officer, Ventura County Human Services Agency. “The VA should actively solicit data on the effectiveness of complementary and alternative therapies so they can provide access (contract, fee basis referral, etc.) for veterans needing mental health care. Alternative therapies in conjunction with VA provided care need to work in concert with one another to meet veterans’ needs. Our veterans have earned such care.”

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and National Institute on Drug Abuse, 44 percent of U.S. military personnel experience chronic pain after combat deployment, and 15 percent of U.S. military personnel use opioids after combat deployment.

The Expanding Care for Veterans Act would:

  • Expand research and education on, and delivery of, complementary and alternative medicine to veterans.
  • Establish a program on integration of complementary and alternative medicine within Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
  • Study the barriers encountered by veterans in receiving, and administrators and clinicians in providing, complementary and alternative medicine services furnished by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Establish a program on the use of wellness programs as a complementary approach to mental health care for veterans and family members of veterans.

Complementary and alternative medicine is intended to enhance, reinforce, or replace traditional, mainstream therapies. For instance, in Ventura County, Reins of H.O.P.E., which works in partnership with the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, runs an assisted psychotherapy program to improve mental health, self-esteem, communication skills, and interpersonal relationships.

In the 113th Congress, Congresswoman Brownley brought the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health to Ventura County to highlight the need to expand complementary and alternative medicine in order to improve care for our veterans and reduce wait times for mental health visits.

The bill text for the Expanding Care for Veterans Act is attached here: LINK 

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